Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Advance Review Copies

I'm a bit torn about posting reviews of books that are not available to the general public yet. On the one hand, I'm all excited about a great book that I just read and want to share; on the other, I know I get frustrated when I read a review of a book then find out I have to wait months to buy it. I sympathize with those who have to wait for the actual publication date. I wonder, should I wait closer to the date of, or after, publication? And I do have some reviews in my draft file, waiting to be posted. But maybe readers are happy for the heads up. And, there's the conversation element; when I read someone else's review of a book, I get inspired to post my own, or want to have a conversation via blog about that book.

For those of you who may be wondering how the heck a person can review books before the publication date, here is the simple explanation.

Most publishers have advance review copies of books made. They are also called ARCs, galleys, review copies, etc. Most are paperback; none are in final form. Maybe it's just a few typos that will be fixed; upon occasion, more significant rewrites are done between the advance copy and the real publication date. A cover design may change.

The purpose of ARCs: to see what the finished product looks like; to get an early copy into the hands of reviewers and buyers (both bookstores and libraries); and to start buzz.

How does a regular person get ARCs? Well, a regular person isn't supposed to get them because they aren't for the public. I get my ARCs several ways: one, thru work, as the current selector of YA fiction for MPOW. The publishers provide some to libraries, hoping that I'll read it and say the library must have 100 copies.

Two, as I've posted on this blog (see the bottom of my sidebar), some publishers and agencies donate copies here for the purpose of review. This is done with the clear understanding that any review is independent of the donation; it can be good, bad, or indifferent. My personal policy is that I rarely blog about books I don't like. While those donations make it easier for me to read certain books, because I have access to them, it doesn't affect how I review books.

Three, by attending professional conferences and conventions (such as BEA and ALA) where publishers give away ARCs to conference attendees. Seriously! You walk thru the convention hall and there are piles of books, saying "pick me, pick me." Sometimes you actually have to say NO to the free books, because it's too much too carry.

Four, from the authors themselves. The authors get ARCS for promotion purposes, which may be a contest, another give-a-way, or giving it to a reviewer (including a blogger.)

The most important thing to remember about these: they are not the finished book. The author gets no money from the initial distribution of these items. And I haven't paid for them. Which means, what do I do with them when I'm done?

Selling ARCs is a big no-no. As an unfinished product, it's not fair to represent on ebay or elsewhere that it's the same as the final version. Plus, it takes revenue away from authors (and I believe in capitalism). So I tend to pass them along when it's "promotional" by giving them to another reviewer/blogger or librarian; I've also used them with teen groups in the library, explaining to the teens that it isn't the final book and requesting their feedback for purposes of purchasing, promoting, booktalking, and reviewing. Finally, I throw them out.

But wait, you say! You just said it's not the final final version. True that. If reading typos in a book drives you crazy, you'd hate ARCs. You have to be willing to ignore those glitches. Because I do sometimes quote, I try to note when I've reviewed from an ARC, so you're not going, "huh, that's not what I read." And it's one of the reasons I hesitate with negative reviews based on ARCS; what if what I disliked gets changed? I've read at least one author blog about revising an ending from ARC to final copy; and during BEA, I heard rumors about a book that wasn't ready getting put into ARC format because they wanted something in people's hands. So I assume that if I've read something I liked, they're not going to change it; but if I read something I didn't, wait to see the final version in case it's fixed.


Erin said...

I think you could go ahead and post the reviews....just try not to give away too much!

I LOVE ARCS...I wish I could get my hands on more. :)

Becky said...

It can be frustrating at times, especially when I come across something I know the kids would love lol. But I have a special wishlist at Amazon just for pre-publication items, and I go through it regularly, and when the item is finally available, I start checking the library for ILL, and then if we get to preview it and really like it or find it useful, then I'll buy it.

The flip side of frustration is that it's nice to have a head's up, and that usually wins out for me :)

Renee said...

Please post! Better to suffer the anticipation of waiting for something good than to not know at all, right?

Emily said...

The frustrating part is that I'm likely to forget about the existence of a book by the time it actually comes out. ;)

I recently read a Japanese book whose translation hasn't been released yet, and so I decided to hold off on a review for a while. But at the same time, it IS nice to wait in anticipation for a book you already know good things about.

Anonymous said...

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Michele said...

I've got an ARC of Wintersmith (Terry Pratchett) - and I've every intention of posting a review of it today, now that I've finished reading it - but I shall post it over on the Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone, so if people want to avoid the potential spoilers, they can.

As for reading reviews of as yet-unpublished books - that happens to me all the time when I'm reading reviews of American books that aren't out for months in the UK. I live with it on a daily basis, so a few more weeks or a couple of months aren't going to make much difference to me...

Brian Farrey said...

It's good to see a reviewer understand this about ARCs. One of my authors was just reviewed in a prominent publication that shall remain nameless (though every LIBRARY, I suspect, has access to this JOURNAL) and all the reviewer could talk about were the typos. All I could think was "Do you even KNOW what an ARC is?" Did he somehow miss the large banner across the front of the book clearly stating it is an UNCORRECTED Advance Copy? I can forgive an ignorant reviewer, maybe someone new to the task who doesn't understand that you ignore typos, but the publication should have known better than to run it.

If you want to say the book sucked because the writing was bad, then do that. Publishers understand that's the risk they take when they send out an ARC. But complaining about the typos is just plain stupid and has given me just a little bit less respect for the publication because they didn't corral the reviewer in when he said, "One can only hope the numberous spelling errors will be corrected in the final version."


Sorry. Had to vent. Have I vented about this before?

Liz B said...

I will be posting as usual, being sensitive about too many spoilers and looking into creating some sort of tickler file to highlight posts when publication dates run around.

Brian -- I don't know whether to laugh or to cry. But this is one reason why so-called "traditional" "respectable" publishing isn't being respected. That is so wrong, on every possible level. (Heck, I don't like typos either. I read one fab book where someone was shooting up heroine. But a great story shouldn't be judged by a few typos. IMHO.)

Anonymous said...

It has to be said, that typos in final versions of books do abound - Terry Pratchett (he's on my mind) frequently muddles up the names of his witches - and I know my non-ARC copy of A Hat Full of Sky has a number of corrections pencilled in because no one spotted that Miss Level was really Miss Tick !

Having said that, I wouldn't mention typos that are in an ARC !